Combining pullets and chicks with full-grown chickens is a challenge. Because pecking order is a serious matter, it can be dangerous and risky no matter the circumstances. Having a mixed chicken flock keeps things lively though! There is no question that we were entertained throughout the process, and perhaps even some of the adult chickens were too.
Sadly, we did lose a chick to what we believe was wry neck. One day she just wasn’t herself and passed away quickly. Even if you want it to be, chicken keeping isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.
Existing dynamics are a consideration in mixed chicken flocks
Our chicken flock already has a well-established mama hen and two pullets, so that was another dynamic to be considered before adding eight new pullets into the mix. These pullets we’re incorporating were raised separately by my neighbor.
Before beginning, we made some coop adjustments (more hardware cloth please!) and a transition plan that we closely followed. From a few hiccups, most days are going smoothly overall.
Fresh Eggs Daily has an entire post and recommendation for a transition playpen or fenced off area in the coop (or next to it) when mixing chicken flocks, which was super helpful. We did that for a week before making an actual introduction.
Here’s my top ten list for your toolkit before you try a mixed chicken flock in your coop!
1. Space … and Perhaps Even a Little More Space: You do need a considerable amount of space and places for them to roost and rest (and escape other birds) throughout the day. We have tons of ladders, two sawhorses, and a smaller roosting ladder so they can chill without being bothered all the time for those lower in the pecking order.
2. Lots of Feeding Stations: Have More Than One – We Have Four!
3. Someone To Do Multiple Drive-by’s Throughout The Day: Outside of the bird we lost to wry neck, I also noticed one of the birds that happen to be tiny has a wound that scabbed over on her chest. She gets around fine, but I do check her out each day to make sure it’s healing. More eyes on the flock mean more folks to run interference if the chickens get pushy with each other.
4. Clean Water…A Must: All the chickens seem to be scratching near the water stations, so it feels like their water dishes get dirty quickly. Always make sure they have fresh water.
5. Mixed Flock = Lots More Chicken Manure. Clean up the poop under the roosting bars.
6. When to Transition From Starter to Grower? Feed based on the youngest member of the flock, and supplement as needed for the older birds (such as additional calcium sources for laying hens). A feed formulated for laying hens isn’t good for little chicks who don’t need that extra calcium yet. When I say we have a mixed flock, even our pullets are different ages within their little “gang.” RULE: At eight weeks it’s ok to transition to Grower feed. Scratch and Peck has a great post about this, and that is what we’ve been feeding since day one.
Scratch and Peck has a feed guide for laying hens, as well as a wealth of other information for chicken keepers. Here’s the link: https://www.scratchandpeck.com/learning-center/helpful-guides/
Our youngest hen is now eight weeks old, so we are ready for Grower feed.
RULE: When feeding a mixed chicken flock, feed according to the youngest members of the flock and supplement as needed for the older birds. That’s the foundation of feeding mixed flocks.
7. Supplements Are Key: Grower Grit is Key During This Transition
8. Transition Playpens Do Make a Difference: I mentioned this above briefly, but the concept of using a playpen to transition our pullets into the coop was brilliant. We kept them in this exact playpen for a week with food and water of course – all the big girls got to know them with the safety of netting between the pullets and the sharp beaks of the ladies!
9. Combat Boredom with Ways to Enrich Hens
To decrease any “Mean Girl” behavior in the coop (fall and winter often mean less time outside, after all) it’s nice to bring in some distractions. I recently gave two huge sliced up spaghetti squashes to the flock for them to peck at throughout the day.
10. Spread Some Love and Stick to a Routine
Chickens, like many animals, like a routine. It eases stress in their day to day life and helps them understand that their human caretakers are going to feed them and provide essentials every day. When we leave, we keep the chickens in the mobile coop for the day. They’re not able to free range, and I notice a lot of chatting coming from my fave RIR hen! The sounds and noises are very specific!
Chicken keepers need to consider a lot including the suggestions above. Having a plan makes this transition less stressful for the birds and humans. I wrote a post about chickens being complicated earlier this fall, and they are! When adding pullets to your existing flock, make sure you review this list and please comment below if you have any questions!
We are celebrating Adopt-a-Shelter dog month!
According to the ASPCA, “approximately 3.3 million dogs enter shelters every year. When these abandoned and often abused animals find their way to a shelter, each one needs a forever home and their potential is limitless. Some of the benefits of adoption are often hidden. Human and canine both enjoy the increased activity and social interaction through daily walks. Humans develop patience as they learn the ways of their new four-legged companion. Dogs explore the many scents of the human lifestyle, usually discovering shoes are off limits.”
There are only a few days left in October so we still have time to get the word out about four adorable adoptable animals that you can meet at the Pixie Project.
Here are some pics and short excerpts from their profiles! More in the links below about each animal.
So while you’re looking for a last minute costume and candy, help us find forever homes for these four animals!
C.J. and Touche *Foster Needed*
Come one and come all! Step right up and see the most famous dynamic duo on the planet: It’s C.J. and Touche! We are a couple of 9-year-old adorable Pug/Terrier mixes both weighing in at around 14lbs. We have been together all our lives and never go anywhere without the other, so suffice to say we are indeed bonded. We, unfortunately, lost our mom who recently passed away in hospice care. But we are very social with other people and would be oh so happy to be apart of a family again. In this 3 ringed circus known as life, we have met a lot of other dogs and people in our travels, but we would much prefer to retire in a quiet adult only owned home as the only pets.
Hi everyone! My name is Frances, but you can call me Franny for short! I am an adorable 10-year-old Chihuahua mix weighing in at only about 8 lbs. Though I am small, I have a big heart with a lot of love to share with you. I am a confident but sensitive lady who enjoys hanging with my adult only human pals. I enjoying going for my daily walks and love rolling around in the grass. When I am out on these adventures, everyone seems to want to wink at me. It took me forever to realize that they thought I was winking first-HA! You might notice I have one eye that is quite smaller than the other. I was just born this way and there are no medical concerns regarding it, and overall I have adapted to it just fine! Besides being outside in the sun, I really enjoy being next to my people getting lots of cuddles and snuggles on your lap.
Adoption fee $350
One small yummy hot fudge Sundae coming right up! And the cherry on top of it all, well that’s me! Hello everyone. You can call me Sundae and I am a 6-year-old Chihuahua mix sweet enough to curb any sugar craving! At 8 lbs, I am a small gal with a big heart. I come from a very rural place in California, so I am a little bit nervous at first, but I tend to shake it off quickly and am actually highly social! Outside, the busy traffic is still new to me but I am always happy to see new people or other doggies on the street. In fact, I get so excited when Pixie staff come to see me that I do a little cooing howl to let them know that I am ready to play!
Adoption fee $350
All hail the King! Just kidding. I am still more of “king in training”. After all, I am only about a 1.5 old! I came in rough shape at Pixie, but they got me all patched up and ready to go! I am even officially all cleared to start running around with my doggy pals and human friends over 8, and I am so very excited to do so! I just love being active and would be a great little hiker. My foster mom says I still like to have my down time and would happily snuggle up on the couch with you after a day of puppy antics.
Adoption fee is $350
If you have any questions about these animals, please contact the Pixie Project!
Why Do People Ferment Chicken Feed?
My hens and rooster love their feed. When the chicks were introduced to the grown-up chickens about six weeks ago, we changed from layer feed to Scratch and Peck’s organic starter feed since the chicks needed to stay on that until about eight weeks. That’s when we’ll put them on grower feed. As I’ve mentioned previously, we always have out a bowl of oyster shell and grit as supplements. But recently I also learned about fermenting chicken feed and now we’re doing this for the ladies! Many farmers do this as part of their daily routine so there is no reason a chicken keeper with a small flock cannot do this!
And at Fang! Pet and Garden Supply we sell all the Scratch and Peck Organic Livestock Feeds. We also talk about fermenting feed with our customers frequently. All Scratch and Peck feed can be fermented – with that in mind, all chicken feeds (except pellet feeds) can be fermented. This post shows their layer feed fermented in the pics below.
This is SO EASY. We decided to use a fermenting kit provided by Scratch and Kit. As a newbie fermenter, it has all the elements needed which made me less nervous. Note for everyone: sprouting is not fermenting. You can sprout whole grains but this post is about fermenting feed. I didn’t know the difference and I actually started “fermenting” grains and then had to start over again. Oops!
Note that these are grains! And you want to ferment feed. Oops!
THIS is the kit showing feed that can and should be fermented.
Day 4: Ready for the ladies
Fermenting chicken feed make nutrients more readily available in, feed requirements lessen, and there is also less waste since the chickens love it.
The nutritional benefits of fermenting chicken feed are great:
- It increases beneficial bacteria in their guts
- It also decreases pathogens in your hens’ digestive systems
- Makes protein more available
- Requires less feed per serving (one of my fave reasons)
- Decreases coop odor (yes!)
- Increases water intake as water is consumed with the feed
- Improves digestibility of feed and nutrient absorption
Ok, How Do you Ferment Chicken Feed?
(I’ve included the daily steps below)
First, you submerge the feed under water for 24-48 hours. This can be done in a bucket. Expert Maat Van Uitert wrote a great book, “Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock” which is my go-to guide for chicken advice.
There is a section on fermenting chicken feed that talks a little about the process. “It’s very, very important to make sure the feed remains under water, which creates the environment that allows the good bacteria to grow,” explains Maat. She likes to leave an inch or two of water above the feed as it ferments.
Note: If it looks moldy at all toss it. But it should smell like sourdough bread! By day two my mason jar absolutely smelled this way and I knew we were getting close (see below).
These easy steps are from Scratch and Peck and please don’t hesitate to ask any of our staff at Fang! if you have questions about how this works:
Place feed in a clean container (see my mason jar in the pics) with a loose-fitting lid. The size of the container will depend on the size of your flock. For a flock of just a few birds, a 32 oz mason jar will suffice. A 5-gallon bucket works for larger flocks. Start small, though, and work your way up if needed.. Leave room in the container for the fermented chicken feed to expand. Pour non-chlorinated water over the feed and mix. (we have a well so our water doesn’t have chlorine in it but if your water does follow these tips).
I tried two parts water to one part feed. And just like Maat says in her book – make sure the water is covering the feed completely. Let sit at room temperature at least a day. And stir it once a day. Bubbles will start to form when the ferment is ready and there will be a slightly sour smell. Pea soup is the consistency you’re looking for.
Day Two Steps:
You can see that it’s starting to bubble on day two. Keep watching as this process can take up to 4 days depending on the temperature.
Day Three Steps:
How does it smell? Make sure to mix it once more on day three. Do you have mash that’s ready to feed your hens?
We’re eating! *note that the mash should be slightly wet and not soupy, so I drained some of the liquid when mixing a new batch! Remember – pea soup!
Fermenting chicken feed was an entirely new concept to me. But the yellow chicken approves. If you have questions, come visit us at Fang! And we can help you!
Dawn is one of our botanical partners and Maple Twig Medicinals provides medicinal herb plants for sale including home-grown seedlings and botanicals in Portland. They also have an Etsy store that sells custom tinctures. We know them best for their wide variety of medicinal herb plants for sale that are available to our customers. We sell several of their starts including Elecampane, Valerian, Sweet Woodruff, Spilanthes, Tulsi Basil, and Marshmallow currently.
Maple Twig is more than a grower of accessible, medicinal starts. Dawn also offers garden consultations, herbal consultations and peer wellness support, educational workshops and, a lineup of wildcrafted herbal tinctures, and salves.
“Providing food and medicine for my community and supporting others in their own self-determination is what it’s all about. Anyone can grow herbs! Many are very easy to take care of and are perennial, requiring a lot less water after getting established,” explains Dawn in this brief conversation.
Have you heard of nettles and elderflowers? Curious about why they’re so special?
Dawn has a fascinating background and we take a look at some of these plants that anyone can grow. More in the below Q&A:
Maple Twig Medicinals:
1.- What inspired you to start growing medicinal plant starts, and why the Maple Twig name?
1A. I have a background in farming and am inspired to grow medicinal herbs because I see community members empowered to connect to their health and have a reciprocal relationship with plants. Maple Twig is the translation of my mom’s family name, Lonnqvist. I grew up producing honey and harvesting raspberries with my mormor and morfar, (maternal and paternal grandparents) and believe that everyone has the right to access the plants their ancestors have used.
2. Acknowledging that plant medicine is a storied culture that reaches back to our early years as humans, what do you feel is most important about it in the context of our modern lives?
2A. There are so many ways that society disconnects us from each other and the living world. Power dynamics promote doctors and professionals to be the experts on our health. While modern medicine has a great role to play in community well-being, connecting to plants that have been used for ages puts some of that power back into the hands of the people.
3. I have several plant allies that I keep in constant “conversation” with, as I am sure you do as well. Would you mind sharing a little about some of your “go-to” herbal friends?
3A. It’s really hard for me to hone in on just a few, but I love elderflower and berries building immunity, along with working through grief and connecting to the underworld. I also love nettles! Soups, tea, stocks, sautéed… it is a great plant to grow yourself because out in the wild it is over-harvested and grows prolifically in polluted areas where it takes up heavy metals. Nettle provides a lot of good minerals but only if grown in good soil!
4. Many people may approach the cultivation and use of medicinal herbs with trepidation, either because they are unsure about invasive qualities and what that means for their gardens, or because they are unsure of efficacy and safety for use. Does someone need to be an herbalist/naturopath to use medicinal plants and what do they need to know about welcoming them into their garden landscape?
A4. Anyone can grow herbs! Many are very easy to take care of and are perennial, requiring a lot less water after getting established. I can totally see why the diversity of medicinal herbs can be overwhelming, but I would say if you have interest give it a shot! If you are worried about a plant spreading further than you would like, try a big pot! You can always transplant into the soil in the spring or fall if you find it will be manageable. Start slow and grow plants you truly want to use and have a purpose for!
5. I really appreciate your mission to keep plant medicine alive and attainable at all levels of the socio-economic spectrum; can you tell us how you’ve arrived at a system that makes this possible?
A5. Right now, this is obtainable through working a full-time job in a psychiatric ER (haha).
Besides that, my medicinal herb plants for sale are at fixed prices to community nurseries, so they don’t bump the prices to fit a more boutique price point. I greatly value trades, sliding scale for Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), accessible educational events, and donating plants and products to BIPOC groups as reparations. I keep my costs really low, mixing my own soil, using recycled pots and building materials, and am all about finding great deals on Craigslist, NextDoor, Buy Nothing, and such. I was recently was awarded the Mercy Corps IDA, which will help me to grow my business while still being accessible and community-focused.
6. What Medicinal Herb book do you make the most use of, currently?
6A. “I love Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification” is a book by Thomas J. Elpel.
It is written by an herbalist and helps with noticing patterns in both medicinal applications and in growing and identifying herbs.
7. Where can others find out more about you and any education or volunteer opportunities that become available?
7A. My website is mapletwigmedicinals.com, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to my listserv, I’m on Instragram @mapletwigmedicinals and Maple Twig Medicinals on Facebook.
8. Can we also send out a quick shout out to all the independent garden centers that you work with apart from Fang! Pet & Garden Supply where you have medicinal herb plants for sale? We like to support our friends and neighbors in the plant industry.
8A. I’m sad to say that City Farm was the main nursery I sold to, which is closing and a huge loss for North Portland and St Johns in particular. I also sell to Thicket on 23rd and Alberta. I would love to hear from folks about places they would like to see my plants and medicinal products!
So if you’ve enjoyed learning more about Dawn, we encourage you to reach out about upcoming workshops or check out their Etsy store where you can find these tinctures. The book referred to above is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in medicinal plants and herbs! Or if you are looking for additional information on medicinal herb plants for sale, our staff can answer anything about the plant starts that we sell!
Chickens have been used to eat bugs for farmers for centuries.
And there is nothing more entertaining than watching your chickens scratch and peck! Many say chickens are the gateway bird to other livestock but perhaps you’re just considering a few hens. Whether it’s three hens or ten, look no further!
Chicken expert advice from Fang! Pet & Garden Supply
When it comes to raising chickens, the experts at Fang! Pet & Garden Supply can help with advice ranging from feed to feeders. There are a lot of different breeds and varieties to choose from for your flock and the staff can answer questions about which are best for laying or meat. Chickens are also like potato chips! You’re going to want more as time goes on.
For example, Orpington’s (above) are sturdy birds and productive layers.
Products you must have on your radar when raising chickens
The store carries a variety of feed options from Scratch & Peck. They offer certified organic chicken feed for whichever variety of bird you have – from layers to baby chicks.
There are also different veggies and fruit you can give your birds from your own kitchen! Like watermelon and broccoli.
You can also give your birds herbs! Here’s a list of the herbs they will love. They can be scattered all over the coop and added to nesting boxes.
You’ll need metal tins for feed storage (you don’t want rats eating your feed), oyster shell as a calcium supplement and grit. Chickens don’t have teeth, apparently, they are very rare, so to grind down their food, they use a strong muscular organ called a gizzard. Chickens pick up grit while foraging, which is kept for a while in the gizzard to perform this grinding process.
What about fermenting feed? Here are tips from Scratch and Peck:
There are many benefits and it’s easier than you think. Why Ferment?
- Make the feed easier for the chickens to digest and it improves the overall bioavailable nutrients.
- Fermented feed has increased levels of Vitamins B, C, and K
- It also has increased protein which can help with egg production
Our staff can advise you further on these steps.
Treats! Worms & Bugs
They love bugs! You can help attract bugs into the coop by adding fresh grass clippings and sticks from the yard. Or ask our staff as we sell bugs too (they’re dead).
Chicken Behavior is Fascinating:
What should you do about the “rooster”?
The rooster’s role is invaluable. They can be mean but they’re simply protecting the ladies. It takes time to build a relationship with your flock but one of the most important things you can do in the beginning is simply watching them and listen to their various noises. You’ll be amazed at how they communicate with each other and over time you will appreciate how the rooster tells them if he found a yummy bug or to run into the coop – “there is potential danger outside!” – a hawk perhaps! Of course, roosters are not allowed in all counties so check the rules first! You don’t need a rooster for your hens to lay eggs!
At the end of the day, raising chickens is work but they’re smart and the eggs are delicious. They can even be clicker trained if that sounds like fun and you’re a behavior junkie like all of us.
At the store, please ask our staff about raising chickens if you have any questions about what you should feed or perhaps you’re just doing some research. And then head over to the garden center so you can choose some herbs that your chickens will love! Grow some calendula or lavender in your garden and feed it to the hens!